Monday 24 July 2017

Old hand O'Gara steers Munster across the line

Munster 18 Aironi 6,

John Fallon

Munster made it 14 wins in a row at Musgrave Park when they eventually got on top of a gritty Aironi side who have never won away from home.

The champions had to work hard in difficult conditions to get back to winning ways in the Pro12, with Ronan O'Gara leading them to victory with six penalties.

Munster put in a solid if unspectacular opening half to lead by 9-3 at the break despite playing into the wind and rain in the first half.

They imposed themselves from the outset and got on top up front and with O'Gara in superb kicking form, they quickly had an edge as he landed a superb penalty from the left touchline after three minutes.

He doubled the lead five minutes later, this time from 39 metres after Aironi were penalised in a scrum.

But Munster were unable to build on that encouraging start. Aironi's defence was organised and became much more disciplined, and Munster struggled to make ground.

Indeed, Aironi might have been in front by half-time but they failed to take their chances. Italy out-half Luciano Orquera had a nightmare with the boot on his debut, after joining from Brive.

He was short with an ambitious attempt after 12 minutes, before slotting over an effort from in front of the posts a minute later. But then he somehow pulled an effort from 20 metres wide, after a bout of pressure.

Munster's new signing Will Chambers showed some neat touches, while Conor Murray was at the heart of most of their better moves.

Yet, they struggled to break down a good defence and were unable to punish the Italians, losing a five-metre scrum just when it seemed they would turn the screw.

It was left to O'Gara to put further distance between the sides into the teeth of the elements from 30 metres two minutes from the break, with Orquera again making a mess of another penalty from distance on the stroke of half-time.

O'Gara took his haul in this competition past the 800 points mark after the restart when he stroked over another excellent kick from 35 metres on the right-wing to make it 12-3.

Munster resisted the temptation to go for the corner when Aironi were penalised inside their '22' after 48 minutes, with O'Gara again displaying superb accuracy to land his fifth kick from the right touchline.

The conditions continued to deteriorate but O'Gara extended the lead before he departed to a rousing reception from the crowd of 6,852.

Orquera, having missed three with the wind, managed to land one into the gale from 30 metres after 63 minutes, but it was a brief respite.

Yet, while the outcome of the game was never in doubt, Munster struggled to turn possession into a try against a spirited Aironi defence.

Munster -- J Murphy; D Howlett, W Chambers, D Barnes (L Mafi 56), K Earls; R O'Gara (S Deasy 64), C Murray (T O'Leary 56) (D Fogarty 70); W du Preez (M Horan 68), D Varley, BJ Botha (J Hayes 65); D Ryan, P O'Connell; D Leamy, P O'Mahony (N Ronan 56), J Coughlan (D O'Callaghan 61).

Aironi -- R Trevisan; S Sinoti, A Masi, G Pavan, G Venditti (G Toniolatti 52); L Orquera (N Olivier 74), T Keats (T Tebaldi 74); M Aguero (S Perugini 57), F Ongaro (R Santamaria 55), F Staibano; J Furno (Q Geldenhuys 33), M Bortolami; N Cattina, S Favaro, J Sole.

REF -- P Allan (Scotland).

Irish Independent

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